Festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar is a veritable land with full of colorful festivals and special events: mostly cultural and religious, all are always pleasurable. Most festivals are celebrated nation-wide all over the country. As Myanmar traditionally goes by 12 month lunar calendar, the dates of the festivals and culture events are determined by the lunar year.


January

Ananda Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

Ananda Temple is the masterpiece, the finest and best art in architecture, much well preserved among all the temples in Bagan, its shape and pattern is significantly distinct, built by king Kyansittha (1084-1113 AD). The temple's name means the endless wisdom of Buddha. Annually, the festival is held in the first week of January. Ananda Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Bagan. Built by King Kyansittha of the Bagan Dynasty in late 11th century it is also rated as the most aesthetic and artistic structure in Bagan. The Ananda Pagoda Festival is held annually on the Fullmoon of Pyatho (January). This annual festival has been around for more than 2000 years and even now people from the surrounding villages come to the festival the traditional way-in bullock carts. They also stay the whole 7 days duration of the event, camping under the spreading acacia trees around the pagoda. The villagers come here in accordance with King Kyansittha's edict that everybody who lives by the harvest from the land that falls in the shadow of the Ananda Pagoda must contribute 10% of the harvest as tithe for the maintenance of the pagoda. There are stalls too, selling everything from daily necessities to cosmetics and food stalls of course. The festival ends with the traditional donation ceremony for the monks on the fullmoon day of Pyatho. Bagan is easily accessible by all modes from transport from all over Myanmar. There are many accommodation facilities, both at Bagan or nearby Nyaung oo to suit everybody's budget. Tours to nearby Mt. Popa and Salay are added bonus for those travelling to the Ananda Pagoda Festival.

Kachin Manaw Festival (Kachin State)

Manaw festival is the most renowned as well as the most ancient in Kachin State. It is also the grandest among all the festivals concerned with tradition and culture for Kachin hill tribes, celebrated at least 4 days up to 8 days in regard to ethnic and communal ceremonies such as wedding, funeral, spirits (nats), and the ceremony of tasting the very first crops; a feast with Kachin traditional food and booze (Kaung Ye) made of rice is served to whoever participates the festival. Both locals and foreigners dance together much happily days and nights in wearing traditional Kachin costumes. The festival is joined by those who live in different villages and hill sites. It is perfect time to observe hill tribes and its ways of life and to enjoy the confluence (Myitsone) of Maikha and Malikha, the source of the Ayeyarwaddy River. From Kachin State, one can expend to Putao based town surrounded by snow peaked mountains. Kachins are from one of the main ethnic groups that live in Myanmar. Their home is in the high mountains of the North. The Kachins are most renown for the colourful dresses of their womenfolks, black velvet blouses hung with silver trinkets and red, thick sarong woven in native designs. Every year in January the Kachins hold a Manaw (a traditional commemorative festival) to welcome in the Kachin New Year. All the Kachin sub-clans gather at the Manaw Grounds at Myitkyina and celebrate this festival. Normally, the Kachn Manaw Festival falls on January 10 every year but interested individuals should contact their travel agents ahead to confirm the dates. Myitkyina is easily accessible by flight from all over the country and there are adequate accommodations in town.

Naga Festival (Chin State)

Naga New Year festival is one of the most breathtaking and exciting events among many festivals in Myanmar. The Naga are one of Myanmar national races who live in Naga land, Sagaing Division, north-west of Myanmar towards the Indian boarder. Their annual New Year festival is celebrated in the mid of January and participated by about 30 Naga clans. They wear different costumes in colour and styling. Visitors can encounter the colourful dresses, animal horns, tiger fangs, bear claws and also silver and bronze accessories and other interesting unseen decorations that we dress up for their performance of Naga essence of history and its own world. Naga enjoy hunting. With the honour of their bravery, Naga served traditional dinners of wild boar and other meat with Naga rice wine. They pray, sing and dance for the greater good of harvests and meals for the coming year. On New Year's Eve, a bonfire is set up in the middle of the occasion and the opening ceremony is started as Naga tribes gathered and the festival pole is raised up on the first day and they make wishes. The main aim of the festival is to ever last friendship and amity between all Naga clans and tribes. The annual festival is held in the mid of January. To all visitors, Naga New Year festival in Naga land is a different world and amazing land to be visited and observed. The Naga people are inhabitants of the high peaks that mark the border between Myanmar and India in the far northwestern corner of the country. There are more than 49 Naga sub-clans and every year they congregate at a designated town in the Naga Hills to mark the New Year. The various Naga sub-clans come to the festival dressed in their exotic costumes; men folks in monkey fur wicker hats stuck with hornbill feathers and wild boar tusks. Some might even have tiger fangs hanging around their necks. In ancient times there were photographs of topless Naga women but now all come dressed modestly in native patterned sarongs and blouses. The Festival will start with the raising of the Ceremonial Pole, beating of the Ceremonial Drum, collective dancing and other traditional entertainments. It ends on the night of January 15 with a conga line dance by all, both natives and visitors, around a huge crackling bonfire inside the festival grounds. Normally the Naga New Year Festival is from January 14 to 15 and rotates among the three towns in the Naga Hills. This year's Naga New Year Festival will be at Lahe. Many travel agents in Myanmar offer packaged tours for foreigners to visit the Festival. Interested persons should contact their travel agents for full information and details.


February

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival (Mandalay)

The pagoda festival celebrates on 14th Waxing Moon day and 15th full Moon day of Tabodwe in Mandalay. The coldest month in Myanmar and during the festival, devotees light bonfires and cook huge pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame to offer to monks at the Maha Muni pagoda. In other parts of the country, sticky rice is cooked as a celebration of the harvest and distributed within communities.

The festival begins on 5th Waxing Moon day of Tabodwe in Shwe Settaw, Magwe Division, in central Myanmar. During 11 days festival, there are two pagodas which enshrine footprints of the Buddha, the site is on the banks of the Mann Creek, where bamboo cabins are erected every year for local revelers to enjoy cool swims during the heat of summer.

Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival (Magwe Division)

Kyaik Khaut Pagoda Festival (Thanlyin)

This festival starts 8th Waxing Moon day of Tabodwe in Thanlyin near Yangon. The nearest pagoda festival of this size closest to Yangon, just 30 minutes away by car. The duration is 10 days. A free traditional puppet show is always part of the festivities.

Htamanae Festival (Nation Wide)

This festival is to celebrate the harvest, communities and organizations cook giant pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut, peanuts and lots of sesame, which is wrapped in banana leaves and given to neighbours and friends.


March

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival (Yangon)

It is one of the wonders of the world of to-day, was believed to have built over 2005 years ago where the Buddha's relics were enshrined. The festival is usually held on the full moon day of Tabaung which is being in March. The traditional snacks and local products are displayed and sold in many stalls along the side ways to Shwedagone pagoda. It is worth moment for visitors to see how bustling Myanmar people enjoy their holiday and how they participate in religious activities of festivals.

Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival (Southern Shan State)

Well known for its extensive limestone caves over millions of years ago. Shwe Oo Min Cave Pagoda festival is as well celebrated on full moon day of Tabaung, starts a week before full moon day. Thousands of devotees from villages around the area come to pay homage to the images of Buddha in the cave. There are some 6000 Buddha images and interesting stalagmites.

Kakku Pagoda Festival (Taunggyi, Southern Shan State)

Annually, Kakku Pagoda festival is also held on full moon day of Tabaung. The devotees come from Pa-O villages to the pagoda for paying respect and enjoy the days under the very huge banyan trees surrounding the pagodas. There are over 2000 ancient pagodas in Kakku pagoda compound. The Pa O people dress up their best costumes and getting to know each other while others come by their bullock carts to the festival.


April

Myanmar New Year Festival (Thingyan Water Festival) (Nation Wide)

Thingyan water festival, the greatest and the merriest, celebrated all over the country which goes together with Myanmar New Year. It features water throwing by the way of relieving of the intense heat of the season and washing away the sins of the passing year. Young and not-so-young people have great fun throwing at one another, teasing, singing, dancing and shouting during the festival. If you take part in this festival, you'll feel really awesome. But Thingyan is not all for fun and play. It is also a time for performing meritorious deeds. Some do religious deeds at monasteries. As a whole, during Thingyan period everything becomes dear. The event is quite obvious and the feeling can't be described in words.

Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda Festival (Bago)

This festival begins the day after New Year's Day in go. It lasts for seven days. Classical theatre troupes perform their best here so they will be booked by agents for the next pagoda festival season. With the advance money they make new costumes and settings and rehearse throughout the monsoon Buddhist Lent period.


May

Ritual of pouring water on the Bodhi Tree (Bo tree) (Nation Wide)

All the pagodas throughout the country celebrate on Full Moon Day of Kason for 10 days. This ritual commemorates the date 2500 years ago when the Buddha gained enlightenment while meditation under a Bodhi tree. Pilgrims pour water on the Bodhi trees in pagoda compounds to keep them fresh in the summer heat of May.


June

Pakokku Thi Ho Shin Pagoda Festival (Pakokku)

Pakokku is an old traditional town on the western bank of the Nyeyarwady River. This pagoda festival is the most important for all towns west of the Ayeyarwady and produce from the region.


July

Waso Festival

The Waso festival is annually held on the full moon of Waso throughout the country. The festival commemorates the time when the Buddha gave his first sermon, to five monks. Pilgrims throughout the country gather wild flowers to offer at pagodas, and offer new robes to monks. The Buddhist Lent period is from the full moon of Waso until the full moon of Thadingyut.


August

Taungpyone Nats (Spirits) Festival

There are a number of annual Nat festivals celebrated throughout the country, the Nats of the region accordingly. Tauhgpyone festival is the most attractive and important in a village near Mandalay. Annual festival is held in September or August according to the Myanmar. lunar calendar. The believers honour the two Taung Pyone brothers, Min Gyi and Min Galay. In Buddhist lore, spirits or nats exit in many forms such as celestials or guardians of the faith, cities or villages or even for each individual. The pantheon of 37 spirits worshipped by semi-animists are also called Nat but of a different kind. Most of the 37 spirits met violent deaths as humans and by strong emotions of bitterness or anger could not pass through to their next life but remain in limbo. But rituals worship them in believing that they will be blessed and they could bring more wealth and good fortune to their daily life.


September

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake, Shan State)

The festival is held annually between on September and October. The duration of the festival is at least 15 days, nation-wide celebrated in Inle Lake, one of the most famous festivals in Myanmar. During the festival, devotees cover the five images of Buddha countless thousands of times with gold leafs; transforming them into round golden spheres, curried by the mythical bird boat and touring around from village to village on the Lake, is the most important and joyous event in Shan State. The five day market takes place every five days, wondering around the floating gardens, floating islands and villages are not to be missed and provides opportunities to see members of national races, such as Danu, Pa O and Palaung and Inn, coming to trade silversmiths ateliers and silk or lotus weaving cottage industries are among the most fascinating attractions in the area. The rainbow colour fabric woven by lotus stems are not found anywhere else on the earth. This festival is one the most recommended by foreign visitors.

Shwezigon Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

Its ceremony is on the full moon day, November 4, there is a ritual of offering a filled alms bowl to a thousand and more monks and novices. Lacquer ware, glazed pots and hand woven cotton blankets are sold by villagers living in the region at this great country fair.


October

Elephant dance Festival (Kyauk Se)

The elephant dance festival is held on full moon day of Thadingyut in Kyauk Se, a town (50 Km) away from the south of up-country old capital of Mandalay. With chronicle, Kyauk Se remains a conservative Myanmar town and religious traditions and cultures are still very much a part of the daily life. The life-size of an elephant made of bamboo frame and cloth paper and as much gilt foil and glitter they could put into the construction. The elephant performed by 2 men get inside of the hollow elephant and moving like lively elephants, followed by some traditional musicians. For the annual dance competition, the candidates compete not just for the best performance, but for the most beautifully decorated elephant as well. To the annual festival, over 150000 visitors from different regions come to participate for its performance of historical elephant dances.

Thandingyut Festival

The Light festival is held one day before the full moon day of Thandingyut, the full moon day and one day after throughout the country. It lasts for three days. This festival commemorates the time when the Buddha returned to earth after preaching in the abode of celestials during the three months of Lent. He descended at night and devotees greeted Him with lamps and lanterns. People decorate their houses with candles and coloured lanterns to symbolize this event. The festival of Light marks the end of Lent.

Kyauk Taw Kyi Pagoda festival begins one day before the full moon day of Thadingyut and celebrates for 4 days in Mandalay. An exciting festival focused on a huge Buddha image carved from a block of marble. It coincides with an annual competition among teams of cane-ball (Chinlon) players. This sport of keeping a rattan ball off the ground without using the hands is not about one side winning and the other losing and is surely the only sport in the world with such a concept.

Kyaut Taw Kyi pagoda Festival (Mandalay)

November

Kahtein Thingan Weaing Festival

This is more likely a kind of charities and donations throughout the country. Sets of new robes and other offerings such as slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, towels, soap and other necessities are presented to monks. Cash offerings for monasteries are also collected and displayed on wooden frames built in the shape of a tree. New cash notes are folded into bird and flower shapes.

Tazaungmone Hot Air Balloon Festival (Taunggyi, Shan State)

As usual, the festival is held on full moon day of Tazaungmone. It takes at least for 5 days and widely famous for its hot air balloons with fireworks and fire crackers, competing day and night during the festival. Visitors can see competition, how beautiful and smart hot air balloons, fireworks and fire crackers that how high they release into the sky. You can see the decorated hot air balloons in distinct shapes and forms of animals such as elephants, ducks, fishes, birds, hens so also four legs animals like pigs and buffalos which are to be hand-made of a kind of fire resistant paper for successfully long lasting while competing. The competition is celebrated in crowed people while others play happily traditional musical instruments and dance around. People from all parts of the country love to come and enjoy this festival as the festival is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar.

December

Popa Guardian Spirits Festival (Mount Popa)

This Spirits festival begins full moon day of Nadaw. During six days festival, the two spirit figures on either side of the Tharaba Gate at Bagan are the brother and sister spirits lord of the Mountain and the Lady Golden Face who protect home or country. A festival takes place at Mount Popa, near Bagan in their honour.

Kyaik-hti-yoe 'Golden Rock' Pagoda Festival

Golden Rock pagoda festival is one of the most famous festivals, and nation-wide both for local and foreign visitors. It is held on the evening of December 31 in Kyaik-hti-yo 'Golden Rock', Mon State. On the platform of the Kyaik-hti-yo 'Golden Rock', pagoda devotees light nine thousand lamps to welcome the New Year and to give thanks to Buddha's peaceful philosophy. The magical Golden Rock Pagoda, a golden spire, sits on top a huge boulder covered with gold leaf and perched on the edge of a cliff.